Meriam Libongcogon who worked as a housemaid for 5 years is now a 2nd lieutenant after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Sunday.
Meriam Libongcogon / Image from Readers Portal
Libongcogon, 25 years old, is the second child of Mario and Florida Libongcogon. She has 5 siblings and they live in Bambalan, Cebu.
Her father is a farmer and carpenter, while her mother stays at home to take care of their family.
The income of her father was not enough to support their family, so at the young age, (6) she and her siblings helped him farm rice.
"Madalas wala pong makain. Pero minsan ang kinakain na lang po namin, kamote o saging. Kung ano pong meron," Libongcogon said.
By the age of 9, she started collecting and selling coconut shells, wood, and sand, as construction supplies to workers, earning P20 every week.
"Ang ginagawa po namin, naghahanap po kami ng coconut shells para ibenta. Tapos minsan may nagpapahakot po ng tubig…Iyong kinikita po namin, ilalagay po namin sa alkansiya tapos yung maiipon po namin, ginagamit po naming pangtahi ng damit namin," she said.
Libongcogon still mananged to become a valedictorian in her elementary school despite working at a young age.
"Dahil po sa karanasan na iyon...Parang nag-graduate po ako ng grade 6 na valedictorian. Iyon po ang gift ko sa parents ko, na kahit mahirap po kami, kaya ko po silang pasayahin," she said.
After graduating in high school at the age of 15, she started working as a housemaid in order to support her college studies in computer engineering.
However, she was not able to finish her degree because of her health. She could not handel her studies and work because she was also expected to care for her employers’ children.
"Mahirap po kasi iyong mga bata, maliliit pa po. Iyong parang pasaway pa po sila, tapos kailangan ko gumising ng maaga para paliguan iyong mga bata [at] pakainin. Tapos ihahatid ko muna sila sa paaralan bago ako pumasok sa paaralan ko," she said.
Photo credits: Coconuts
After being a housemaid in Cebu for three years, she transferred to Baguio City, where she met foster parent Nanay Rose.
Nanay Rose encouraged her to join the PMA, and helped her enroll in the academy.
"Ginamit po ni Lord yung mga nakilala ko sa pagkakatulong para makapag-aral dito sa PMA. Tinanong po nila kung ano yung grade ko. Tapos tumulong po sila na kunin yung credentials ko sa Cebu," she said.
"Hindi ko naisipang mag-resign kasi sanay na po [ako] sa hirap. At saka lagi po akong nagdarasal sa Panginoon na tulungan niya po ako," she said.
Libongcogon is set to enter the Philippine Navy, and said she plans to build a house for her parents.